Animal experts are warning that modern lifestyles including the trend for open plan living are bad for our pets. That’s disappointing news for pet owners, as more and more homes are being modified to offer larger, open plan spaces. But what is the problem with our lovely contemporary homes?
Cat Behaviour and Domestic Life
Cats like to claim their own space and cut themselves off from other animals and even their owners. The lack of divisions in a property can make this harder to do and so stresses the cats. The problem is worse in households where there are several pets. We might consider our pets to be part of the family but cats may think differently! They are unlikely to consider humans or dogs to be a part of their social group.
The animal welfare laws in the UK state that our pets should have the opportunity to exhibit normal behaviour. Perhaps the changes in the way we arrange our homes are preventing cats from doing that. But it is hard to imagine that anyone would design their home specifically to suit their cat or that anyone would be prosecuted for animal cruelty because they were fans of open plan living!
We’re guessing that if cats have access to at least one bedroom, they would be quite happy in a home with open plan living spaces.
Dogs and Anxiety
Another aspect of modern life could be seriously impacting dogs. In many households, all of the resident adults work and so there are inevitably times when there’s nobody home. Being left alone can be extremely distressing for dogs and may result in destructive behaviour, incessant barking and stress.
Dr Rachel Casey, from the charity Dogs Trust, has warned that separation anxiety is a massive problem and one which is probably under-reported. Owners will only report the issue or seek help if their dog is tearing up their furniture or the neighbours are complaining about the noise. But is there anything we can do to alleviate the problem?
How to Prevent Separation Anxiety
Dog owners can unwittingly contribute to the issue by making a huge fuss when they leave the house but this usually make dogs even more anxious. It is best not to make a big deal out of leaving the house!
When dogs are puppies, owners tend to devote a great deal of time to them and not to leave them alone. Then, when they are older they change the routine. The dogs have come to rely on their owners being there and find their absence extremely stressful. It could be better to acclimatise pets to your absences from the outset.
Excess Energy and Boredom
The destructive behaviour and stress that dogs exhibit is often the result excess energy and boredom. Dogs which receive plenty of exercise and stimulation are less likely to feel stressed.
Puppies tend to cry as soon as they are left alone in their cage. Owners naturally rush to comfort them but this is merely rewarding undesirable behaviour. Puppies should be taught to settle down and remain quiet for increasingly long periods of time. Patience should be rewarded and puppies must be encouraged to entertain themselves with toys.
Owners should also spend as much time as possible training their puppies both in and out of the house. Dogs which are obedient, respectful and confident will be less prone to separation anxiety. When owners do have to leave their dog at home they should leave quietly and without any cues.
It can help if the television is left on as this will provide a distraction and the familiar sound is comforting. Owners should also try to avoid obvious routines when leaving the house. Dogs soon pick up on the fact that their owners collecting their coat, picking up their keys and walking towards the front door means that they are going out.
Dog owners must establish themselves as leaders who are to be obeyed whilst ensuring that their pet’s needs are met. An obedient and confident pet is a relaxed pet.